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Common Thoughts and Feelings of Grieving Parents 

This morning I opened the Facebook app on my iPad and started scrolling through my news feed. A post from a grief site caught my attention so I ducked over to the loss of a child FB page and started scrolling. . . 

And my heart broke all over again.

As I scrolled through the posts I read such raw anguish. . . 

I heard my own thoughts echo back through the words of others.

Despair.
Discouragement.
Defeat.
How did this happen?
How could this have happened?
Why did this happen?
Who am I now?
What am I doing?
Why can’t I get it together?
How do I go on? . . . Do I even want to?

I’m so angry!
I feel numb. . . detached . . . lonely.
I have no friends left.
If I’m not happy others don’t want to be around me.

And so it goes. . . so many pain filled thoughts and feelings.

And I’ve put my emotional armor on.

I read these things and give a knowing intellectual nod to each one . . . 

But I refuse to draw any closer.

I refuse to engage my emotions.

I can’t shoulder their pain along with my own.

Today, 

I have nothing to give.

My arms are so weighted that I cannot reach back for the one who so desperately needs a hand to hold.

I’m still broken.

And yet,

I feel guilty and ashamed that I can’t formulate words of hope, support and encouragement for another hurting parent.

Not today.

The words just won’t come.

Maybe tomorrow. . . 

But what of all those hurting souls that need a word today?

I am so thankful for the many bereaved parents who step up and in on the days I can’t. Those who are there for me and others with understanding, encouragement and sometimes righteous indignation.

I’d never wish another parent into the child loss community, but I am so very thankful that I’m not alone.

And on the days when I am weak – when the well is dry, others are stronger and extend the hand of courage to the weak and the wounded.

I need the Holy Spirit to fill me before I can be poured out once again for another.

We need each other.

How we need each other!

 
7 Comments

Posted by on May 2, 2017 in Grief

 

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Still Gone


“It doesn’t matter how much I heal or how much emotional processing I go through or how much I pray or go to therapy, whatever, he’s still gone.” Said the young man whose older brother died eight years ago. 

I can relate to those words on so many levels. They’re pretty straightforward, but I’ve found myself meditating on them. In some corner of my mind I recognize there is a nuance that is not so straightforward but is profoundly important. 

And here it is hiding within these three words, “. . . he’s still gone.”

“He’s still gone.” 

I have spent the last three years processing my emotions in the aftermath of the collision that killed two of my daughters. Those losses piggybacked onto the loss of my son almost 25 years ago. And then they were interwoven with the knowledge that my 21 year old daughter, my only surviving child, was born with a rare genetic degenerative neuromuscular disease. Believe me when I say that I’ve processed emotions. 

Relentlessly. 

I’ve prayed. Prayers of anger and despair. Questing prayers. Begging entreaties. Oh yes, I’ve prayed.

I’ve even tried trauma therapy and grief counseling.

I’ve tried finding meaning in some global purpose. Painted on a positive outlook. Whatever.

And they’re still gone.

Do we somehow, unconsciously assume that emotional processing, therapy, and prayer will change that unacceptable truth? Do we think it will fill the gaping holes left in our hearts when our children die? Do we think that grieving will make the loss of our loved ones okay in time? 

And maybe that’s why “they’re still gone” echoes so hollowly through my heart and mind. Maybe I am living with the unrealistic expectation that at some point “they’re still gone” won’t hurt anymore. Is that the goal of grieving?

What expectation should I have? What will healing look like? Feel like? Is it even possible? And maybe that’s why his words, “he’s still gone” communicate a straightforward fact but if you really let them sink into your soul they communicate so much more. Resignation, sorrow, despair, and feelings far to deep to articulate. 

He’s still gone.

She’s still gone.

They’re still gone.

And maybe that’s why I’m stuck. Why I can’t move forward or get better – whatever it is that society expects of me.

No matter what I do, my personal reality is that they’re still gone. Until the end of my days they will be missing from me. Maybe there are some wounds that sink so deep into an individual that they can never be healed this side of heaven. And unless I make peace with the immeasurable worth of an eternal future (not just acknowledge it-not just understand it-not just hope for it) and even if I do make peace with eternity, the wounds I have sustained will never fully heal. They will always hurt because they’re still gone. 

Never will I be whole again. 

Never will it stop hurting. 

Never will I be okay with their absence. 

Still gone.

Still gone.

Still gone.

It echoes and echoes and echoes through me. Those words hold an unquantifiable depth of meaning and they leave my heart torn and bleeding.

Still gone.

 
9 Comments

Posted by on April 19, 2017 in Grief

 

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What Bereaved Parents and Those Who Care for Them Need to Know

“It gets worse before it gets better.” Those were the words the pastor offered to a newly bereaved couple whose daughter had died unexpectedly.

And you should know that he is right.

Bereaved parents are stunned when four months, six month, nine months down the road they find their grief remains overwhelmingly raw. 

The shock has worn off.

Their hearts have been flayed open and the wound is still bleeding.

It doesn’t help that those outside the loss community expect healing to be happening when the magnitude of the loss is still seeping into the soul.

The depth of loss has not been fully realized when the funeral is over. No, in the weeks and months and years ahead bereaved parents are confronted with the realization that they didn’t just lose their child but that they lost the hope, dreams and expectations they held for that child as well. They lost their child’s future, but they also lost their own future expectations (marriages and grand babies, to name a few) and they grieve for both what their child will never experience and what they themselves will miss out on.

Frequently bereaved parents squelch their grief as they try to remain strong for their surviving children. They can’t fall apart because they are so desperately needed by those too young to understand or to express their grief in healthy ways. That’s one reason why the average length of time it takes for parents to work through the grief process averages five years or more – the longest bereavement period of any loss known to man.

My daughter’s grief counselor told her that many teens don’t grieve over lost siblings for four or five years. They experience delayed grief which I think results from trying to be strong for their parents. The entire home is in upheaval. The sense of security that was taken for granted has been exposed for the fallacy that it is. Gone is the naïveté that we can protect those we love from harm. It’s a frightening experience.

It’s truly terrifying. 

And parents and siblings are often left dealing with problems that arise in the wake of the death. Financial pressure, legal issues, spiritual, emotional and health problems assault the family. Marriages and family relationships quake in the aftermath.

While the outside world expects healing to begin, bereaved families are often sorting through compounding problems. They are reeling from the fallout and haven’t really begun the healing process.

Bereaved parents and the outside world need to know and understand that grieving the loss of a son or daughter – regardless of their age – is the most devastating and destructive loss experience. Both the bereaved and those who care for them need to anticipate and make accommodations for a long and drawn out grieving process, because it definitely gets exponentially worse before it gets better. 

For those who care about the bereaved, grieve with those who grieve. Let go of the expected length of bereavement. Don’t reduce grief to a simple bid for sympathy or pity. And be ever aware that for the grief-stricken feeling bad feels bad, but feeling better feels bad too. It’s a psychological hurdle grieving families frequently face. There is a battle raging within the hearts and minds of loss parents. What they know to be true doesn’t “feel” true and they struggle to reconcile the conflicting messages received from the heart and mind. The solution is not as simple as mind over matter. 

People often ask me what to say or do for someone who is grieving. So many times I’ve heard others advise just be present and listen. Both those things are helpful but not necessarily healing. In my experience validating feelings is the single most healing thing you can provide the bereaved.

Grief, for a bereaved parent can be likened to a pressure sore, more commonly known as a bedsore. Pressure sores develop when an individual stays in one position for too long. Unlike other wounds, a pressure sore grows deeper instead of spreading wider as other wounds do. They can be deceptively dangerous because they rapidly eat through layers of flesh below the affected skin to the tendons and the bones beneath if not treated promptly. Treatment involves the painful scraping away of the dead tissue to reach the healthy tissue below. Ointments is applied, the wound is packed and covered and daily cleaning is required to prevent the wound from getting deeper. 

Likewise, grief gets worse and deeper when exposed to the pressure of society to project a positive outlook or to work through their grief in the timeframe others deem appropriate. Shaming and silencing the bereaved for failing to heal, wallowing in grief, or throwing a pity party deepens the wound by invalidating the worth of the loved one lost. Venting the negative feelings helps to clear away the infection but refusing to validate those feelings is tantamount to leaving the wound exposed to the dirt and debris floating in the air. The wound gets worse and healing takes longer as the grief-stricken seek the understanding of others.

Validation is the antibiotic ointment applied to promote healing. The presence of “safe friends” (those who don’t criticize or try to fix the broken) is the packing and covering which provides a barrier between the open wound and the influences of the outside world. Frequent validation and affirmation keep the emotional wound clean providing an environment that encourages healing. The bad must be flushed out before the good can replace it. Unfinished grief occurs when we slap a bandaid on without cleaning and disinfecting the wound. The wound may no longer be visible to the outside world but is quietly festering beneath the bandaid that it covers. 

For the bereaved, be gentle and patient with yourself. You’ve been deeply wounded and deep wounds heal slowly. As the old song says, “The road is long with many a winding curve.” Grief isn’t supposed to feel good. 
It gets worse before it gets better; but it can and does get better.

 
122 Comments

Posted by on March 20, 2017 in Grief

 

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How not to say the wrong thing – LA Times

Everyone has encountered those moments when they desperately want to comfort or encourage another individual only to find themselves at a loss for words or blurting out something that unintentionally hurts. 

Please check out the teaser below and follow the link to read this informative article that might just cure your foot in mouth disease! 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


When Susan had breast cancer , we heard a lot of lame remarks, but our favorite came from one of Susan’s colleagues. She wanted, she needed, to visit Susan after the surgery, but Susan didn’t feel like having visitors, and she said so. Her colleague’s response? “This isn’t just about you.”

Source: How not to say the wrong thing – LA Times

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2017 in Chronic Illness, Grief

 

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How To Bring Relief To Those Who Grieve | Michele Cushatt

The holidays are hard on the grieving. Gatherings surrounded by intact families, seem to taunt the bereaved with all that’s been lost—all that’s painfully absent in their own lives. Following Thanksgiving and Christmas comes the new year and all the expectation for a fresh start. Rarely do the bereaved feel this way.

The cold, dark months that follow often reflect the hearts of grieving families. Life comes to a screeching halt and also has a weird way of speeding past following the death of a loved one. It feels like you are standing still while the rest of the world rushes by. It doesn’t just “feel” this way; it happens. I remember the first time I really got out and around town following our accident. I was shocked to find a Cracker Barrel, a Chipolte’s and a new Walmart Convenience Store and Gas Station had been built. Life moved forward. I had not.

This blog post by Michele Cushatt, will help those who love the bereaved to minister to the hurting in 2017.

A teaser and a link to the full article can be found below. I hope you will take the time to follow the link and read the article.

“New Year’s Eve is supposed to be a celebration. A butt-kicking “goodbye” to the old year and raucous “hello” to the new one. After the year our family had, we were ready for both. So I prepared the food, pulled out the games and puzzles, and chilled sparkling cider to the delight of my children. By dinner, …”

Source: How To Bring Relief To Those Who Grieve | Michele Cushatt

 
5 Comments

Posted by on December 28, 2016 in Grief

 

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No, No, No!

My heart lies in tatters once again as I hear of the loss of another son, another grandson. It’s personal this time. People I know and love . . . the second such family in two months time . . . it makes me nauseous.

Oh, how helpless I feel!

I don’t want to be there to help. . .

No, no, no!

I want to rewind the clock so this is not their present stunned and horrified reality!

I want to save them from this anguish like none other.

And since I can’t. . .

I want to draw them close and catch their tears.

I want to receive and heal their broken and distraught hearts.

I want to listen to every painful word and let them know they are loved.

That God still loves them—will still be faithful to them—that there are mercies.

“It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed because his mercies never diminish. They are new every morning; great is thy faith[fulness].” ~ Lamentations 3:22-23 (Jubilee Bible 2000)

There is no silver lining! Nothing will ever make this loss acceptable or justify it for the family even when a good work of the Lord is later revealed. Silver linings imply that this horrible loss can be wrapped up in some future good, tied with a pretty bow and completely nullify the bad. The bad is made good.  Mercies, on the other hand, are blessings within and after and in spite of any tragedy.

There are mercies!

He can take the shattered pieces of our lives and in time make something good and beautiful but still cracked and scarred for all to see. He can make us beautifully broken but never unblemished by the ravages of sin in this world.

And everyday from the moment of loss until my friends step into eternity there will be mercies.

Small mercies in the midst of overwhelming sorrow and despair.

God doesn’t promise to fix this in the here and now. He promises to draw close, to catch our tears. He promises to be faithful to us. He promises new mercies every day.

Here I sit several states away and I can’t ignore the parallel that lies before me. I am afar off but the wonders of technology allow me to be close via phones, social media, Skype, cars and planes.

In many ways I can immediately respond if my friends reach out.

But they know I can’t wiggle my nose and be in actual hugging distance instantly.

They know that God sees them, and responds immediately to their call for help . . . but at the same time they are separated from His physical touch.

Consequently, the bereaved often feel alone, abandoned and betrayed. Please don’t correct these feelings. Imagine yourself in their shoes. Wouldn’t you feel the same? Validate those feelings! It’s not sinful to feel any of those things. Hear the words of the prophet Jeremiah:

“My soul has been cast far away from peace; I have forgotten happiness.
So I say, “My strength has perished And so has my hope and expectation from the Lord.”~ Lamentations 3:17-18 (Amplified Bible)

In many ways grieving families are simply inconsolable.

They don’t want to be consoled . . .

They want to go back!

Back to the moments before their lives were so tragically changed.

Three years later I can testify to this truth:  while life moves relentlessly forward there are parts of a parent’s heart that stand still in shocked horror indefinitely.

How can this be?

Surely, this is not real?

I’ll wake up from this nightmare!

God, please let me awake from this nightmare! 

Let it all be a terrible dream . . . a horrible mistake.

Please God, take this cup from me!

Yet the die has been cast and lives have unraveled in unimaginable ways.

Every sight thereafter will be seen through a lens of grief. Every written and spoken word filtered through grief. Every joyous event that follows will not be felt with pure, unblemished joy as in the past but will be bittersweet—tainted by the fact that you are no longer whole and you long for the presence of the one out of reach.

Faith will be shaken.

Minds fogged by confusion and fear, anger and frustration, and a sorrow so deep they will never find its limits.

They are shattered.

Not merely broken.

Utterly shattered!

Thus saith the Lord: A voice was heard on high of lamentation, of mourning, and weeping, of Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted for them, because they are not. ~ Jeremiah 31:15 (Douay-Rheims Bible)

Mourn with those who mourn!

Weep with those who weep!

God’s mercies will be new every single morning.

He has His job; we have ours.

Today, once again, I mourn for and with others. Won’t you join with me and carry those who grieve before the throne of grace?

Anguished prayers for parents, siblings and family as a whole rise in begging supplication for God’s mercies to rain down—for His presence and love to wash over every shattered heart—for this to be nothing more than a terrible dream!

The desperate prayer of my heart to see faith made sight is far more urgent today.

“Hear my prayer, O LORD! Listen to my cry for help! Do not ignore my sobbing! For I am dependent on you, like one residing outside his native land; I am at your mercy, just as all my ancestors were.” ~ Psalm 39:12 (NET Bible) 

If you know of a bereaved family, please pray them through the holidays. If you don’t, please pray for the VanGulick, Vickers and Williams families who will each be missing their son, sibling or grandson while others gather with intact families and celebrate together. These families are secure in their confidence that Harry and O’rane will celebrate Christ’s birth in His presence; but their hearts will ache with the absence of their presence (as my friend Melanie is known to say). Please cry out to Jesus on their behalf!


*Follow the link below to read more about the beautiful sculpture pictured above. It’s only a few brief paragraphs.

Rachel Weeping for her Children Sculpture

 

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2016 in Faith, Grief, Links

 

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Great Lines in Fiction & Non-fiction Words of Note

Great Lines in Fiction & Non-fiction Words of Note

Often I find that authors speak the things my heart knows but can’t quite put into words. Words about fear, grief and prayer…Words that offer the sweet relief of knowing that my struggles, spiritual and worldly, are common across mankind. Here are several that have spoken to me. I hope you can appreciate them even if you haven’t encountered a situation where you understand them experientially.

Let’s start with non-fiction.


Non-Fiction Words of Note:

One bold message in the book of Job is that you can say anything to God. Throw at him your grief, your anger, your doubt, your bitterness, your betrayal, your disappointment — he can absorb them all. As often as not, spiritual giants of the Bible are shown contending with God. They prefer to go away limping, like Jacob, rather than to shut God out.” ― Disappointment with God, Philip Yancey

***

When weakness meets weariness, and discouragement meets disillusionment, we must be on our guard. These are spiritually precarious moments. . . I’m finding that what I really need at this phase of life is the refreshing gospel reminder that it is precisely my weaknesses that showcase most clearly and beautifully the strength of God’s grace (2 Corinthians 12:9–10), and that I have need of endurance, so that when I have done the will of God I may receive what he promised (Hebrews  10:36). My weaknesses have a purpose in God’s design, and so does my weariness.”  ― Turning Fifty and Still Fighting for Faith, John Bloom

***

“Rejection steals the best of who I am by reinforcing the worst that’s been said to me.” ― Univited , Lysa TerKeurst

***

“Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or may betray us tomorrow – that’s vulnerability.” ― Daring Greatly, Brene Brown


Great Lines in Fiction:

“I like to think that all those stars are my prayers,” whispers Charlotte. “God thinks they are so pretty he chooses to string them in the sky.” ― How Sweet It Is, Alice J. Wisler

***

“. . . the most difficult battles are not the ones fought outside the armor, but the ones within it.” ― The Prayer Box, Lisa Wingate

***

” It’s been my experience that fear doesn’t have a set of parameters. We can’t turn it off just by realizing we shouldn’t be afraid.” ― Hidden Away, Maya Banks

***

“Her mind would have accepted the facts about the deaths, done its best to shield her from the emotions of those facts. To survive it, she would have fought to keep that distance.”   ― Taken, Dee Henderson

***

“I walked over to the shoulder of the road, unsure of what I expected to see. Sirens in the distance placed a sense of urgency, but I was numb. I knew I should be feeling something, but I didn’t. Every single emotion I’d started to feel had been placed back in the vault of my soul.” ― Hidden Sins, Selena Montgomery 

***

“She needed one person besides God who knew it all, who knew her, and accepted her as she was.” . . . But she also needed friends who knew, whether in whole or in part who still unreservedly accepted her.” ― Taken, Dee Henderson

***

“Silent is always better than sorry.” ― Buried Secrets, Irene Hannon

***

If only worry could keep him safe.” ― Buried Secrets, Irene Hannon

***

“I think he’s scared to trust that someone could actually love him. That it’s not just a mistake. Simon knows all about how to love. He just doesn’t know how to be loved.” ― Daring in the Dark, Jennifer LaBrecque

***

“The urge to live was as intrinsic as it was intense. And the urge to save those she loved was stronger still. But, in the end, she’d been helpless. Infuriatingly, pathetically helpless. . .” ― Thrill Ride, Julie Ann Walker

***

“. . . finally saying the words out loud, telling the tale and admitting to the root of her fear was freeing in a way she never could have imagined. Letting someone else share in the horror of her experience, having someone hold a mirror up in front of her face so she could address the foolishness of her irrational fear, relieved her of a burden she hadn’t known she’d been carrying around like a two-ton bolder of shame.”  ― Thrill Ride, Julie Ann Walker

***

“. . . being without him made her heart heavy—it felt literally heavy, as though it had become a lifeless, leaden organ, barely worth carrying around. And everything remotely happy had an echo of pain that hurt like hell.” ― Against the Dark, Carolyn Crane

***

“. . . People always judged themselves by their intentions; they judged others by their actions.” ― Wild Thing, Robin Kaye

***

“Writing had always helped her, before. It always clarified her feelings and her thoughts, and she never felt like she could understand something fully until the very minute that she’d written about it, as if each story was one she told herself and her readers, at the same time.” ― Look Again, Lisa Scottoline

***

“Suddenly, someone who was at the center of your life is gone, excised as quickly as an apple is cored, a sharp spike driven down the center of your world, then a cruel flick of the wrist and the almost surgical extraction of your very heart.” Look Again, Lisa Scottoline

***

“Nobody was ever replaced in life, no hole completely filled or loss totally healed. You didn’t need a medical degree to know that the human body really wasn’t stronger in the broken places. Like any bone, the cracks would always show if you looked hard enough.” ― Come Home, Lisa Scottoline

***

“I’ve learned that you don’t stop loving someone just because they die. And you don’t stop loving someone who’s dead just because you start loving someone else. I know this violates the natural law that two things can’t occupy the same place at the same time, but that’s never been true of the human heart anyway.” ― Everywhere That Mary Went, Lisa Scottoline

***

TEN YEARS (A song)

“In one second, I see ten years

I picture a future of all my fears

One Blink, and I think

Losing you is like losing me.”
“Lights flash, the car spins

Every time I close my eyes I see

Broken skin and broken kin

The end of you feels like the end of me.”
There’s a scream in my soul

‘Cause I’ll never feel whole

I’m stuck in the moment. My mind’s on repeat

Trapped in an instant I can’t delete
“Time unravels, my life unspools

The future has made us all into fools 

You’re lying there, and I’m stuck in my chair

All I’m allowed to do is stare.”
We’re all slaves to the grave

Helpless to save

So we close our eyes to shut it out

Instead it becomes what we’re all about.”
“In one second, I see ten years

Can’t hold it back any more than the tears

I see black dresses, life’s stresses

Imagine the grief, loss of belief

My life unfolds as yours is untold
“Every time I close my eyes.

Every time I close my eyes.”

― Faking It, Cora Carmack

***

“I love it when you swear. It’s like a Care Bear giving someone the finger.” ― One Blazing Night, Jo Leigh

***

“So he simply said, “make sure it’s about justice and not revenge. ”

“What’s the diff?”

“Justice will keep your head straight. Revenge will skew your judgement.”  ― Wild Ways, Tina Wainscott

***

“You’re trying to think it through, trying to, make sense of it. The thing is, though, it doesn’t make sense. It never will. You can’t equal it out. What he did and how you feel for him may never . . . wash, I guess. You just have to make a decision and stick to it. Right now, you’re basically burying your head in the sand and hoping it goes away.” ― Alpha, Jasinder Wilder

***

“Fear is just fear. We must take action in the face of it, Cassie, because action increases courage.”  ― Secret, L. Marie Adeline

***

“Love has many guises . . . Sometimes it’s a stroke of lightening . . . other times a slow building storm . . . But the one thing that never changes is that it must be be nurtured. You can’t kick a heart and expect it not to flinch.”  ― Rock Courtship, Nalini Singh

***

“”I didn’t lose him. God took him.” The edge was back in his voice when he spoke of the Lord. “You know what I don’t get? he quickly continued, “Why did God even bother creating Tucker if it was only so he could die?”

Her heart physically ached, her chest tightening at the hurt and anguish in his soulful eyes. “God didn’t create Tucker to die. He created him for eternity.”

He looked at her with such longing, her breath caught. “Gage, Tucker’s time on earth was short, heartbreakingly so, but his life didn’t end in the NICU. He’s alive for eternity.” . . . “How can you sound so sure, be so sure?””Because of God’s Word. He’s never reneged on a promise, so I know He’ll keep His promise of eternal life for the innocent as well as those who choose to accept the redemptive death of His son.” ― Stranded, Dani Pettrey 

***

I hope you were able to find a bit of validation for yourself among those quotes, and if not . . . Did you know that studies show that people who read fiction are more empathetic than those who don’t? There’s great value in the written word! 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on December 13, 2016 in Adversity, Books, Faith, Grief

 

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